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General Municipal Law 239 Referrals

GML §239 Referrals by the County Planning Agency
Click above link to view referrals that have been completed by the County Planning Agency.


General Municipal Law Referral of Local Planning and Zoning Actions

Any questions or comments regarding the referral of local planning and zoning actions pursuant to General Municipal Law Section 239 should be directed to Karen Sullivan at 607-547-4225.

General Municipal Law §239 Referral to the County Planning Agency
Pursuant to GML 239-1 review and recommendation by the County Planning Agency includes consideration of:“pertinent inter-community and county-wide planning, zoning, site plan, and subdivision considerations” with respect to:

  • Compatibility of land uses
  • Traffic generating characteristics and the adequacy of thoroughfares
  • Impact on county or state institutional or other uses
  • Protection of community character as regards predominate land uses, population density, and the relation between residential and nonresidential areas
  • Drainage
  • Community facilities
  • Official municipal and county development policies [emphasis added]
    • Comprehensive plans
    • Capital programs
    • Regulatory measures
"Official policies" means a document that has been adopted by resolution by the legislative body. other matters as may relate to public convenience, govt efficiency, and to achieving and maintaining of a satisfactory community environment. Validity or enforceability of the proposed action is not included in GML 239-l.

GML 239 referral pertains to the following types of actions (239-m.3.a):

  • Adoption or amendment to a comprehensive plan
  • Adoption or amendment to a zoning ordinance or zoning local law
  • Special use permits
  • Site plan approvals
  • Use or area variances
  • Other authorizations issued under the provisions of a zoning ordinance or zoning local law
  • Moratoria on zoning approvals or as an amendment to zoning (per NYS DOS technical manual “Land Use Moratoria” (click for link)

         And if the action is within 500 ft of the following (239-m.3.b):

  • Municipal boundary
  • County or state park or recreation area  (existing or proposed)
  • County or state thoroughfare  (existing or proposed)
  • County owned stream or drainage right-of-way  (existing or proposed)
  • County or state land with a public building or institution   (existing or proposed)
  • Boundary of a farm operation in an agricultural district

General Municipal Law §239 Referral of Moratoria
There are 2 types of Moratoria:
Per NYS DOS technical manual “Land Use Moratoria” (click for link) :

  • Land Use Moratoria
    • on zoning approvals and amendments to the zoning law
    • are subject to GML 239 review
    • must meet five basic requisities to be legally defensible:
      1. have a reasonable time frame
      2. have a valid public purpose
      3. address a situtation where teh burden imposed is bing shared substantially by the public at large
      4. strictly adhere to the procedure for adoption by the enabling acts
        • must following all procedures for adoption of a zoning law or amendment including public hearings, notices to the public and adjoining muncipalities, and written protests
        • See Town Law Sections 264 & 265, Village Law 7-706, 708 & 710, City Law 20 & 8
  • Police Power Moratoria
    • non-zoning moratoria (such as subdivision)
    • can cover land use approvals
    • NOT subject to GML 239 review
    • Courts have ruled Police Power Moratoria must meet a three prong test:
      1. in response to a dire emergency
      2. reasonably calculated to alleviate or prevent a crisis condition
      3. that the municipality is presently taking steps to rectify the problem

Land Use Moratoriums are NOT subject to SEQRA (6NYCRR Part 617.5)

  • “A moratorium on land development or construction” is a Type II actions under SEQR
  • Type II actions have been determined to not have a significant impact on the environment  (including population concentration, distribution or growth, existing community or neighborhood character, human health

Review of land use moratoria includes the following considerations:

  • Moratoria are temporary  
  • Moratoria may be followed by a legislative action that may have permanent impacts that will be referred as a separate action under GML 239
  • Moratoria need not be in accordance with the comprehensive plan, as other land use regulatory matters must be.  Often the purpose of a moratoria is to give a municipality time to write a comprehensive plan.  To hold a moratoria in accordance with a plan than may be revised during the moratoria is counterintuative. 

Other Provisions of General Municipal Law

Project waivers
For projects/proposals generally considered to be insignificant, a municipality may waive the referral requirement. 
A written agreement with the county is necessary.

  • If your municipality does not have an agreement in place, contact the Planning Department.

Required materials to be referred
The referral package must include the “Full Statement” of the project.  A full statement includes:

  • All materials required by the local law for a complete application
  • Part I of the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) required by SEQRA, and any other environmental information required to make a determination of significance (the determination of significance does not have to be included)
  • An Agricultural Data Statement if applicable. 

Agricultural districts:  If the project is within an agricultural district or on property with boundaries within 500 ft of a farm operation located in an agricultural district an “Agricultural Data Statement” is required.  The Planning Department encourages all local boards considering action on projects to refer to use the “mapping online” feature to view parcels and agricultural district boundaries to determine if an agricultural data statement is required.

Notice to adjacent municipalities:  If a project is on property within 500’ of a municipal boundary, then the local board must give notice to the clerk of the adjacent municipality of the date of the public hearing at least 10 days prior to such hearing.

When the local action is contrary to county planning agency recommendation:  If the County Planning Agency recommended modification or disapproval of a project, the local board can only approve the project with a vote of a majority plus one of all the members of that local board.  If the local board has acted contrary to the recommendations of the County Planning Agency (such contrary actions requires a majority plus one vote), the report must include the reasons for the action. 

Report of final action:  The local board is required by NYS General Muncipal Law to file a report of its final action with the County Planning Agency within 30 days of its action.  A “Notice of Final Action” form can be found to the right.